THE GREAT HEART OF THE REPUBLIC

THE GREAT HEART OF THE REPUBLIC

by Adam Arenson
     
 

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In the battles to determine the destiny of the United States in the middle decades of the nineteenth century, St. Louis, then at the hinge between North, South, and West, was ideally placed to bring these sections together. At least, this was the hope of a coterie of influential St. Louisans. But their visions of re-orienting the nation's politics with Westerners at… See more details below

Overview

In the battles to determine the destiny of the United States in the middle decades of the nineteenth century, St. Louis, then at the hinge between North, South, and West, was ideally placed to bring these sections together. At least, this was the hope of a coterie of influential St. Louisans. But their visions of re-orienting the nation's politics with Westerners at the top and St. Louis as a cultural, commercial, and national capital crashed as the country was tom apart by convulsions over slavery, emancipation, and Manifest Destiny. While standard accounts frame the coming of the Civil War as strictly a conflict between the North and the South who were competing to expand their way of life, Arenson shifts the focus to the distinctive culture and politics of the American West, recovering the region’s importance for understanding the Civil War and examining the vision of western advocates themselves, and the importance of their distinct agenda for shaping the political, economic, and cultural future of the nation.

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Editorial Reviews

History News Network
Arenson's The Great Heart of the Republic...reveals the fresh and complex insights that close study of Missouri can yield for our understanding of nineteenth-century American history...Arenson's book offers a much broader interpretation of the Civil War than a typical work of local history. Rather than provide a comprehensive account of St. Louis's past, he uses the city's story to reveal a "nuanced, intimate history of the Civil War era from the heart of the republic." The result is a beautifully written and strikingly original interpretation of the causes, conduct, and consequences of the war. Like the authors of several recent works, Arenson wishes to reorient the discussion of sectionalism and the Civil War by emphasizing the West's importance in shaping the conflict. In Arenson's recounting, the war looks less like a fight between North and South over slavery, and more like a messy struggle between northerners, southerners, and westerners from a variety of ethnic, racial, and religious backgrounds...Arenson's work is wide ranging and ambitious, covering art, architecture, and historical memory as well as the history of politics and policy...Readers will discover a creative history of mid-nineteenth-century America in microcosm.
— Andre M. Fiche

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674059184
Publisher:
Harvard University Press
Publication date:
05/03/2010
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
File size:
1 MB

What People are saying about this

William Deverell
This is a superb book. Careful and bold all at once, it reminds us that the 'gateway to the West' played a major role not only in the coming of the Civil War but in the contests— cultural, social, and racial—it so tragically provoked.
William Deverell, Director, Huntington –USC Institute on California and the West
Michael A. Morrison
A sweeping, illuminating work that offers a fresh perspective on the period from the Mexican War to the post-Reconstruction era. Adding a western dimension to the sectional crisis of the Civil War era, Arenson's narrative is revelatory.

Michael A. Morrison, author of Slavery and the American West

Aaron Sachs
In compelling prose that balances brilliant analyses with rich narrative details and lively anecdotes, Arenson offers an important new argument about nineteenth-century U.S. history. His book combines the most thorough scholarship with the pleasures of a frontier romance.
Aaron Sachs, author of The Humboldt Current
Iver Bernstein
Arenson's beautifully told story of the rise and fall of St. Louis's efforts to invent itself as a center of American enlightenment and empire in the long Civil War era shows Manifest Destiny as a lived reality, with intoxicating and toxic implications for ordinary Americans.
Iver Bernstein, author of The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War
Ann Fabian
Arenson sets St. Louis at the center of nineteenth-century America's 'cultural civil wars' as dramas of competing visions of the nation played out on the city's streets and docks and in its courtrooms, churches, and classrooms. In this beautifully crafted book, the national stories we thought we knew take some surprising turns.
Ann Fabian, author of The Skull Collectors
Louis S. Gerteis
From the Great Fire of 1849 to the completion of the Eads Bridge in 1874, Arenson examines the cultural civil war through a city that aspired to be the unifying center of the American continental empire. St. Louis' successes and failures richly illuminate national travails as the promise of Manifest Destiny succumbed to the politics of slavery.
Louis S. Gerteis, author of Civil War St. Louis
Stephen Aron
An ambitious, innovative, and engaging look at the pivotal role St. Louis played in the cultural contest to determine the destiny of the United States.
Stephen Aron, author of American Confluence

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